The thing you hate in yourself
is in your name, the one
you were scolded by, called in
with; and if you have the same
name as millions of strangers
as dozens of your classmates,
companions, this is a constant
kind of scolding, a judgment
for ordinariness you can’t fight.

(It is not your parents’ fault. It is
your parents’ fault. They should
have seen in that crystal moment
how your insistent mouth, crumpled
face were a window to your genius.)

Like on a coffee cup, we need
a place to touch and not get burned.
Like on a jug, we need a way
to pour without slipping.
You are complex as a garden
scent, an ocean wave—
we need a way to round you off
grasp your visible shape.

Name Theory

Hollywood star of black-and-white
golden age—jet hair, strong bones—
I see my mother here. Dark beauty, sensitive
nature: which traits are innate, which projected?

See, her name was really Phylis, the glamour
third-hand, created—a mask this name
shapes me to wear (? Behind the screen
in the self, contained, I am dark and sensitive


Musing on names and the story that I when I was born, my mother knew of no other Jennifers but actress Jennifer Jones. (For a Silver Birch Press prompt.)